History of The Hague

Binnenhof The Hague Politics Parliament Dutch

The Hague is a municipality and city on the western coast of the Netherlands on the North Sea, the royal and administrative capital of the Netherlands, and the province of South Holland. It is also the Netherlands government’s seat and hosts the International Court of Justice, one of the world’s most important courts.

Ancient history

The Hague region was part of the Roman territory of Germania Inferior and was close to the empire borders, the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes. In 1997 CE, archeologists discovered four Roman milestones at Wateringse Veld. The originals are in the “Museon” museum. The milestones show the distance from the most adjacent Roman city, Modern Voorburg (Forum Hadriani), and can be recorded to the reign of the emperors Antoninus Pius, Caracalla, Gordian III, and Decius.

Early history

Not much is known about The Hague’s origin. No contemporary documents mention, and later sources are often of questionable reliability. What is clear is that The Hague was established by the last counts of the House of Holland. Floris IV already occupied two residences in the region but likely purchased a third court located by the present-day Hofvijver in 1229 CE, earlier owned by Meilendis. Probably, Floris IV tried to rebuild the court into a big castle, but he died in a tournament in 1234 CE before he built anything. His successor and son William II lived in the court. After he was chosen as the King of the Romans in 124 CE8, he immediately returned to The Hague. He had contractors turn the court into a “royal palace,” which would later be called “Inner Court” (the Binnenhof ). He died in 1256 CE before this palace was totally completed, but the builders finished parts of it during the era of his son Floris V, of which the “Knights’ Hall” (Ridderzaal), still intact, is the most noticeable. It is still used for administrative events, such as the Dutch monarch’s annual speech from the throne. From the 13th century CE onward, Holland’s counts used The Hague as their residence and administrative center when in Holland.

The village that started around the Binnenhof was first introduced as Die Haghe in a contract dating from 1242 CE. It became the Counts of Holland’s primary residence in 1358 CE and became the seat of many government institutions. This status allowed the town to grow; by the Late Middle Ages, it had grown to a large city’s size, although it did not receive city status.

In its early years, the village was situated in Monster’s ambacht, or rural district, which the Lord of Monster administered. Seeking to exert more direct control over the town, however, the Count split the town off and formed a separate ambacht called Haagambacht, managed directly by the Counts of Holland. Floris considerably expanded the territory of Haagambacht.

When the House of Burgundy acquired Holland and Zeeland’s counties in 1432 CE, they selected a stadtholder to rule in their stead with the mighty States of Holland and West Friesland as an exclusive advisory council. Although their seat was situated in The Hague, the town became subordinate to more important centers of government such as Mechelen and Brussels, from where the sovereigns commanded over the increasingly centralized Burgundian Netherlands.

Modern history

In 1806 CE, when the Kingdom of Holland was a mere puppet state of the First French Empire, the town was awarded city rights by Louis Bonaparte. After the bloody Napoleonic Wars, modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands were united in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands to form a defense against France. As a compromise, Amsterdam and Brussels alternated as national capital every two years, with the administration remaining in The Hague. After the Belgium separation in 1830 CE, Amsterdam remained the Netherlands’ capital, while the government was located in The Hague. When the administration began playing a more leading role in Dutch society after 1850 CE, The Hague instantly developed. Many streets were explicitly created for the large number of civil servants employed in the nation’s government and for the Dutchmen retiring from the Netherlands East Indies government. The thriving city annexed the rural municipality of Loosduinen partly in 1903 CE and entirely in 1923 CE.

The town experienced heavy damage during the dangerous stages of World War II. Hilter’s administration killed many Jews during the German occupation. Also, the Atlantic Wall was created through the town, causing a large quarter to be torn down and destroyed by the Nazi occupants.

After World War II, The Hague became one of the most significant building sites in Europe. The town grew massively to the south-west, and builders quickly rebuilt the destroyed areas. The population peaked at 600,000 residents around 1965. In the 1970s CE and 1980s CE, primarily white middle-class families moved to neighboring towns like Leidschendam, Voorburg, Zoetermeer, and Rijswijk.

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